Coming to Tacoma’s Proctor neighborhood – a new Vietnamese sandwich shop
When Toast Mi opens, it’ll bring something to the Proctor neighborhood that it’s never had: a grab-and-go bánh mì sandwich shop.
It’s not the first time a bánh mì spot has been destined for the Proctor neighborhood. Fast-casual Vietnamese restaurant Fresh Rolls put up a sign in the Madison 25 building to announce its arrival in 2019. Fresh Rolls is a healthy-focused restaurant with a fast-casual menu of fresh rolls, noodle bowls and other fast Vietnamese cuisine. It operates locations in Tacoma, University Place, Gig Harbor and Lakewood.
Owner Vu Nguyen said in February that the plans for the Proctor space just didn’t work out. However, he still hopes to open a Fresh Rolls location in the North End, but he and wife/co-owner Diana Tran are not yet ready to announce a location.
Enter Toast Mi from first-time restaurant owners and longtime friends, Nikki Nguyen and Liam Nguyen. Their shop will serve sandwiches, salad and rice bowls meant for quick eating in their small dining room, or to-go. They intend to open this summer, but the timeline is dependent on permit approvals.
The idea for opening a restaurant has percolated between the pair since they met about a decade ago as students at the University of Washington. Both are intense foodies who love to travel.
Nikki lived in Vietnam for two years and the idea for this restaurant was cemented when Liam came to visit. “We’d go out to eat every day and try different places. That’s when we started with this idea,” said Nikki.
Nikki grew up in Tacoma in a restaurant family. Her parents own and operate 20-year-old Federal Way Vietnamese restaurant, Linh Son Restaurant.
When Nikki and Liam started looking into opening their own space, Nikki already knew the imperative asset for a grab-and-go Vietnamese restaurant: foot traffic.
“We started looking a year ago. It was about finding the perfect location for us,” she said. “We drove by Proctor and we noticed there was nothing like what we wanted to open there. We loved the atmosphere in the neighborhood. There was a lot of foot traffic and we noticed that people who live in the neighborhood, they like walking around.”
Added Liam, “We also noticed they’re (Proctor neighbors) supportive of local businesses and that’s what he liked.”
When Toast Mi opens, it’ll have a menu of quick-service bánh mì sandwiches, salad and rice bowls built to a diner’s specification and a dining room for a dozen at 2602 N. Proctor, in the former tiny home of vegan restaurant Viva Tacoma (Viva moved to a new Proctor location at 2620 N. Proctor St. Read more about that here).
“We grew up eating Vietnamese food, so this is inspired by the food we grew up loving, but with our own modern twists,” said Nikki.
Nikki and Liam have focused their efforts on sourcing the best possible ingredients. They plan to order their sandwich baguettes from a regional bakery known for its bánh mì bread. They’ve got their own recipes for their house-pickled vegetables, their house pate and housemade aioli.
“Toast Mi is more of a mixture of a Vietnamese traditional bánh mì shops, and a modern twist to it,” said Nikki. Added Liam, “Build-your-own is the way we’re going to to do that.”
“People can watch us make their sandwich right in front of them. When you go in, you so often go into a bánh mì shop and you order what’s already on the menu there. But at Toast Mi, you can build your own,” said Nikki.
Diners can select from meaty fillings such as grilled pork, pate, shredded chicken, braised beef brisket and Vietnamese meatballs in a tomato sauce (xíu mại). Vegetarians can order the lemongrass tofu. Sandwiches come with the usual bánh mì trimmings of sliced cucumbers, picked carrots and daikon, cilantro, pickled jalapenos and that house aioli. ($5.99-$7.99)
Salad and rice bowls – built with a choice of white or brown rice – come with the option of any of the protein choices or tofu option listed above $7.49-$9.49).
The shop will have a secondary specialty with bubble and milk teas that can be customized with sea salt cream, jellies and boba; plus Vietnamese coffee and Thai Tea ($4-$4.50). They’ll offer a variety of specialty and blended drinks.
“Although we are a grab-n-go, we still want to create a relaxing and modern atmosphere for customers that want to sit and enjoy a fresh bánh mì and sip on one of our refreshing drinks. It is very important to us to bring a piece of Vietnam to our store so you’ll certainly see decorations that represent Vietnam,” said Nikki.
For dietary restrictions, the salad and rice bowls can be made gluten-free. One sandwich can be turned vegetarian and vegan friendly by skipping the ingredients that use fish sauce. They also pledge to use eco-friendly packaging and disposable utensils.
Where: 2602 N. Proctor St., Tacoma
Opening: They intend to open this summer, but the timeline is dependent on permit approvals.
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